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Watch Evan Discuss Kill la Kill on Fandom Beat's Behind Anime Lines

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You may have heard me on the Ani-Gamers Podcast before, but I recently made the jump to video! Watch me fidget awkwardly on camera as I discuss Kill la Kill with Fandom Beat's Nick Robinson (embedded above). For the record, I didn't come up with that title, though I did at one point say Kill la Kill was my favorite anime of 2014 so far.

In case you can't get enough of me babbling about cartoons on YouTube, we did another episode for Fandom Beat — a watchalong of the boobsword trash that is Momo Kyun Sword, embedded below (the video we were watching is here). If you thought I couldn't rag on Crunchyroll shows because of my job, THINK AGAIN.

ConnectiCon 2014: The Panels

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Reunions, Q&A sessions, analyses, recreations, historical perspectives, genre explorations, philosophical enlightenments … is there anything a panel can't be? I don't know, but I'll keep on attending them to find out and report my findings to you! After the break, check out descriptions of and commentary on, complemented by photos and video, the panels I attended throughout ConnectiCon 2014. I had a gas and I learned some. In the end, is there anything more spectacular?

 

 

Attack on Panels!

Not a bad way to start off a con. This interactive panel, based upon Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin), pit Survey Corps against Titans. Survey Corps members were made to do some light exercise (stretches, jumping jacks, etc.), while Titans got to draw faces on paper plates. This equated to a lot of needless masquerading in lead up to the inevitable fun of it all: having paper plate-faced titans charge a “brick” (cardboard box)-built wall time and time again with variations. This grew old really quickly. Thanks to the ingenuity of the Titans, however, the last attack I stayed for was a shining moment: facing a “wall” comprised of Survey Corps members linked arm in arm, the titans charged as usual but could not get through. Seeing this, a couple rogue titans sneaked around the audience, behind the wall of the linked Survey Corps members, and tore it asunder. It’s a panel that’s utterly for fun’s sake, but luckily the fans in the crowd and that final maneuver made it worthwhile.

Neverending Story Panel

Talk about a shock: Atreyu is actually a tattooed punk and Falcor turns out to be a wrinkly ol’ white man who all too closely resembles my father? Didn’t matter one bit. Reminiscing with Noah Hathaway and Alan Oppenheimer, actors who respectively portrayed the aforementioned characters, was a pleasantly unbalanced experience of fun and enlightening. Both talked as to the conditions under which the film was made: barely understanding the director, being distracted by gigantic booby props, and the elaborate workings of the stage itself. But both also spoke to how they related to the film, about how the film related to the book, and in one shining instance, about how the film still affects each other. Oppenheimer, reprising one of his key lines as Falcor, actually made Hathaway choke up. It was obvious then that the movie was as powerful for its stars as it was for the fans gathered at the panel eager to hear and talk about it.

Kill la Kill and Feminism

Judith F. and Natalie R., both of whom I’ve previously seen present analytical panels, broke down elements of Kill la Kill into "NOPE," "Arguably," and "Fuck Yeah" categories regarding how appropriate they were to providing a positive feminist perspective. I applaud the panel’s construction and presentation. With the audience so stacked with choir members, much of what was preached could’ve been taken at face value. But the strength of argument behind each aspect under investigation was strong (despite and maybe because of panel members having, at times, differentiating opinions). Topics covered included the kamui, camera angles, role subversion, and more. I’ve seen such panels easily derailed by philosophical rants, but this was definitely not one of them. This panel impressed through a fair and balanced, evidence-backed analysis of one hell of a divisive show. The only perceivable drawback, regarding those who’ve scoured the Web for this type of analysis since day one, is that there was minimal original insight. This panel does present, however, a concrete set of arguments arranged originally. As such, it offers a 101 for those who’ve never sought deeper interpretations regarding its feminist aspects.

Visual Novels

FAKKU! members Jacob (creator/founder), Chris (uploader/fan subber), and Bob (“just a guy”) talked about visual novels (VNs) that influenced them in one way or another. Briefly, it must be noted that FAKKU! is a fan-sub-based hentai portal gone legit. (For more on that, check out the FAKKU! Q&A summation below.) Over the course of the presentation, the three panelists ran down their initial experience with VNs, what made/makes them so appealing, and the variety of perversion available. It was an onslaught of depravity I honestly never knew existed, and it was fantastically disgusting and hilarious for being so. Perhaps the most poignant question asked during the panel, about three examples in or so, came from a young woman in the audience: “So, basically, all the examples you guys are gonna give are those targeting heterosexual males?” It was a great observation and question. When Joseph responded with an honest, “Yes,” no-one left. Regarding the A Drug that Makes You Dream, a VN that focuses on girls who embody various social plights (take that one with a HUGE grain of salt), one panelist said, “I forget how the girl’s route ended. I was just too invested in the butt sex.” I’ve never laughed so hard at such depravity or with those who enjoyed it as I did at this panel. It was a riot, but it was also a surprisingly honest insight into the dark reaches of the libido-fueled VN market.

Staring at the Sign Post: A Twilight Zone Panel

Given that Rod Serling was a Connecticut resident, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a Twilight Zone panel at ConnectiCon every year. Thankfully, Charles Dunbar and Aleks brought one this year. It was a more than a summation of the show; this panel was a retrospective highlighting not only stand-out episodes but Serling’s arduous decent into exhaustion upon season after season of working on the show. Clips were accompanied by analysis of the very elements which endeared viewers to the series and placed it well above its peers in terms of focus, writing, production, themes, and situation. The panel also traced the show’s popularity with the viewing public and showed that even the creator’s exhaustion couldn’t keep Twilight Zone from making a triumphant fifth season flourish. After all the analysis, the panelists offered up their favorite Top 10 episodes and asked the crowd about their own.

Cupcakes, Rainbows, and Grand Guignol: Grimdark Fiction and My Little Pony

Can I have my anime “. . .” bubble now? At some previous convention, I’d seen Geek Nights explain how the ingenuity of the MLP:FIM (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic) fandom promotes the perpetuation of the show’s popularity, but Charles Dunbar takes it to a whole new level. Saying fans are creative is one thing, but breaking down how their adaptations incorporate and exploit such outside influence is an enthralling rabbit hole of history and nuance. Dunbar accomplished this by expounding upon the history, themes, and aspects of the productions of Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol (1897–1962) and linking them to specific instances within MLP:FIM fan-fiction (videos and literature). The relevancy alone kept every audience in their seat, but the visuals dug up for the purpose of the presentation ensured dropped jaws and laughter of disbelief all around.

The Play’s the Thing: Shakespeare in Anime

It’s one thing to say, “Hey, look! Here’s some Shakespeare in anime,” before moving onto the next slide or clip, but it’s another thing entirely to dissect the usage of such instances. Robert Gannon took the latter course to expose, from worse to better, how and to what effect specific anime series leveraged England’s most famous bard. Before rolling the examples, there were some wonderful bits of insight, such as the habit of ADR scriptwriters substituting Shakespeare as an easily identifiable Western reference for classic literature despite translation accuracy and even plot relevance. Gannon, in one instance, also showed how a certain mouse-mascotted empire used Shakespeare to help avoid trademark infringement. Overall, this panel was a solid mix of identification and analysis. That Gannon read subtitles so that people wouldn’t miss out on clip content despite a low-aimed projector was all the more reason to enjoy the show.

Internet and Gender Politics

The common thread linking the four presenters on this panel was that they talk about media through a feminist lens (to varying degrees). While things started off with some terms and definitions for the uninitiated, the panel eventually got rolling as a general, audience-driven Q&A looking at how people treat each other on the Internet. This led to exploring the various platforms — online games, blogs, Reddit, etc. — social media has provided that afford people the means to voice opinions that both help and hurt as well as specific ways in which they do so. This brought up conversation about the MRA and such memes as #notallmen. Panelists also discussed intersectionality, abuse of the first amendment as justification for harassment, as well as the notion of attention as currency and anonymity as a weapon. A few people were also brave enough to share some of their own personal stories of harassment. While the discussion often sidetracked into media analysis more than perhaps was called for, the issues were related, so the asides were worth hearing. While I feel this should be a panel at every con, I also feel it only attracts the choir. I heard no dissenting opinions throughout, which makes me question if the panel did any good to anyone except in the senses of solidarity and venting (which, granted, are pretty important).

Pinky and the Brain Q&A

If ever there were two guys who knew how good they had it, appreciated the opportunity for it, and shared that warmth by reflecting the love of the fans, they would be Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen. Both recounted their time spent working on the series, from auditioning, to suspecting a spin-off, to their eventual world domination. Never did their sense of wonder at the level of fame they achieved seem dishonest; the glow of humility was nearly blinding. While the audience mostly asked about Pinky and the Brain, Paulsen and LaMarche also fielded questions about other early 90’s era toons — Freakazoid, Animaniacs — and pondered the long-lasting effect the former (spurred on by a question about Pinky being smarter than Brain) while complimenting the writers for making that possible . As a special treat, Paulsen and LaMarche read, as Pinky and Brain, Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss:

Anime Directors You Should Know

Highlighting directors known for their styles and accomplishments within the anime industry, Internet media titan Scott Spaziani presented brief bios with influences, inspirations, and notable works. After exploring each, he rolled a short clip for the audience’s edification and then moved on to the next director. The most fun came after instances when Scott would ask the audience if they knew of, for instance, Kunihiko Ikuhara, and only a few raised their hand. “Sailor Moon,” he offered. Then ALL the hands went up. “If you know who they are, it’s easier to find what you love,” admonished the panelist. A goodly list of directors was presented, and the great thing about a panel such as this, which cannot possibly fit all of everyone’s favorites, is that the list can change and grow with each iteration. As a side note, I don’t know whether it was Saturday doldrums or just part of his self-deprecating delivery, but the monotone delivery and repetition of “Because I have the mic and you don’t” were, if not off-putting, a tad counterintuitive to the efforts of the panel.

FAKKU! Q&A

Formerly existing strictly as a fan-sub upload joint built by a kid who just wanted there to be a hentai website that didn’t suck, FAKKU! (NSFW WARNING: This link leads directly to the homepage of an adult (18+) site that has explicit ads and content but no age verification) has turned into a legit hentai manga publisher bringing over titles from Wani Magazine in Japan. Creator and founder Jacob, along with cohorts Chris and Bob, were taking questions from the audience about the company as well as the interests of its … members. After detailing a few of the upcoming titles to be released, the questions began. There were questions about the company’s origin, how it sustains offering free content (advertising), future book pricing, why they chose Wani to work with, how they managed to convince the magazine to work with them (persistence and building the case for free porn as an interest building device), the most bizarre hentai they ever encountered, legal issues with publishing some of the material in the USA, and just about every question you could think of with the word “fap” in it. It was in this panel where I came to fear the oft-uttered lead-in, “Funny story…” Everyone was unflinchingly honest and well-humored, which made the answers to the questions a riot.

Why No One Will Game with You

Delivering the first panel of Sunday at any con is a lonely experience. But given the title to this particular panel, the presence of an initial audience comprised of just three members was humorously appropriate. This was not lost on the Geek Nights panelists, who slowly ate pie in front of everyone. Ok, it was a metaphorical pie eaten by dissent and conflicts. Disappearing bites, slices, and chunks represented the percentage of gamers made incompatible via the likes of geography, preferred genre, skill and economic gaps, gaming rationale, age/maturity, life priorities, and much more. After going into detail about why all of these individually contribute to making it almost impossible to find a match for a game, the panelists offered some suggestions to help improve seekers’ chances. As much of this advice was technical as it was social, including settling for playing something that was not your first choice and building better gamer culture by way of eliminating abhorrent behavior. Suggestions even reached into the political realm, with hints at weighing in on net neutrality. This was another well-constructed and thought-out panel that didn’t deny its own inherent elitist elements but rather used them as an example to that which should be conquered to build a better gaming community.

The Trap Door: Just my Mecha, Pony, and Me

Tenamonya Voyagers (1999)

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Tenamonya Voyagers DVD CoverWorking off the supposition that a nutty plotline is the basis for a good adventure, I like finding anime that has just enough wackiness to make me laugh but not so much that I’m left asking if there's some TV show or movie in Japan I should be watching in order to get the joke. If that’s true, then Tenamonya Voyagers has all the ingredients I’m looking for.

In the future, Earth stands on the edge of a galactic empire. Actually two in fact: the Central Democratic Planetary Federation and the Shinsei Greater Milky Way Empire. They have settled their differences and signed a few treaties. One byproduct of these treaties is that if a person inside either area is accused of a crime, they instantly are absolved of their crimes. Into this comes Ayako Hanabishi, a 20-something year old teacher, and Wakana Nanamiya, a sophomore high school student who is attending the same school in deep space, far from Earth, at which Ayako teaches. At least they would have been attending the same school if it hadn't closed after being declared bankrupt. Into their lives falls Paraila, a young girl who claims that she is a high schooler just like Wakana. Actually, she’s a member of the Jaoukai — a part of the Big 3 organisation (think space mafia and you’re not far off) — and she’s running to Earth because her rap sheet is a solar system long and the Space Federation Police is after her. So with no money, the girls pick up their stuff and decide to head to Earth. All the while, Space Police, former friends of Paraila, and others try and stop the girls from getting to their destination.

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The jokes in Tenamonya Voyagers go by so fast that the actual joke is the fact that they went past at warp speed.

For me, the show is a godsend for making me laugh when I really shouldn’t. Japanese humor is very hard to get straight off, but Tenamonya plays from the same sheet as Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, where the joke goes by so fast that the actual joke is the fact that it went past at warp speed. Lines are delivered super quick, Japanese texts are flashed on screen, gobbledygook is shown in odd places, things blow up frequently around the girls and Paraila, there are people shooting at them and screaming at them (usually it's Detective Yokoyama), and every crisis ends with a mech battle that racks up trillions of galactic credits in insurance claims. Paraila is a kleptomaniac who constantly steals ships, cruisers, space trains, and anything else that will get her one step closer to Earth. At first, the girls try and fight back and tell her its wrong. But when they discover her space crime history, they almost completely give up trying to correct her heinous acts. Oh, and an entire episode is devoted to them being naked except for a few strategically placed items on their body inside a boiling hot spaceship that will explode if they don’t play fantasy baseball with a star’s corona. There, I’ve blown your minds. You’re welcome.

Tenomonya Voyagers Splash 2

Throughout every adventure the girls face, they all try and do things in, if not an honest way, a way where the least amount of attention gets raised by them being there. Everything is going great until someone recognises Paraila, shooting occurs, and the gang have to run. Then Inspector Yokoyama bursts in and destroys the local countryside (and I’m not exaggerating here) and the whole thing starts all over again. Really, for only four episodes, the show’s creators really get their money's worth.

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There’s a wonderful, gleeful, anarchic humor to the script.

The show doesn’t explain why we start the story almost in mid-flow; it just asks that we accept it. Paraila falls from the sky and destroys the calm that Ayako and Wakana were standing in (if only because they had been left without a paddle by their school closing). There’s a wonderful, gleeful, anarchic humor to the script. The three leads just punch out line after line, with Ayako mumbling her lines in a shy, squeamish manner while Wakana and Paraila go at each other. At first, Wakana is quiet too, but as she sees the danger Paraila puts them all in, she becomes more vocal. The final episode has the two of them pulling hair and pinching cheeks while screaming at each other. Along the way, the script writers drop title cards, stoic voice overs explains things like galactic politics, and characters who have no bearing on the plot (like space mafia goons) discuss how to deal with Paraila. The characters just go from one bad situation to the next with hopes that their position will improve. It never does, but then that’s the fun of it. They make good progress toward Earth but leave such a wake of destruction that it becomes moot if they ever reach human shores.

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Little by little, the story of how Paraila came to fall from the sky and why she’s tagging along with the two Earth girls is revealed. She comes across as selfish most of the time but stays with the girls because they fulfill two basic roles. One, they serve as a magnet for trouble, like Detective Yokoyama (who should have been Sonny Chiba if they had made the character male), and Paraila LOVES trouble. Secondly, Paraila’s life would be boring without them. Ayako seems to not have a brain cell in her head, but she’s a college graduate and laments that her teacher training is going to waste on a daily basis. Couple that with the fact that she has an almost unconscious ability to win at gambling and she is the surprise of the cast. Wakana has her moments, mostly in the third and fourth episode when her baseball skills both fail and save the gang. She is a model student but Paraila just brings out the worst in her. And if you’ve ever been curious, the show gives a breakdown of all the charges filed against the girls (well, Paraila) at the end of each episode.

I would like to say that Tenamonya has a resolution but it doesn’t. It simply ends, and it does so almost in mid sentence. I found myself giggling when I realised they had no intention of letting us know if they made it to Earth. It’s a fun little adventure with some amazing gags and, yes, some absurdist humour, but it gets to temporarily leave the Trap Door if only for good behavior.


On the 25th of every month in "The Trap Door," Phillip O'Connor tackles one forgotten anime title to find out whether it deserves to be rediscovered by the anime community. Click here to check out previous entries in the column.

Con Report: ConnectiCon 2014

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At a good con, there’s always more to see and do than can be accommodated by one person’s schedule. (See future ad: Ink seeks con lackey.) ConnectiCon maintained that tradition this year with a strong panel lineup and some star-studded voice talent. While I’m not usually one to be wooed into panels or press junkets by voice actors or actors in general, there was something undeniably and decadently nostalgic about the combined appearances of Rob Paulsen (Pinky) and Maurice LaMarche (Brain), Richard Horvitz (Zim) and Nikki Simons (GIR), and Alan Oppenheimer (Falcor) and Noah Hathaway (Atreju). This more or less set the theme this year: older media for a younger crowd.

 

During the past two ConnectiCons, I noticed a good mix of old and young. This year, however, the attendee demographic seemed heavily skewed towards the younger set despite programming that seemed aimed to appeal to those from at least two generations previous. Don’t get me wrong, letting talent slip into obscurity, allowing its effect and humanity to be forgotten by not affording it the opportunity for a physical presence, is a horrible thing and should be countered every possible time. Because, let’s face it, no-one knows how much time is left.

There is a ghost in ConnectiCon’s 2014 guidebook that was once portraiture of flesh and blood. There was an empty Dealer’s Room table, identified but by a simple moniker marker, which overflowed with books just one year previous. Perhaps saddest of all, there was no voice to speak to an audience of a now permanently cancelled “Abuse the Author” panel. Author C. J. Henderson passed away from a protracted battle with cancer just one week before the con. If you were lucky enough to be touched by interacting with the man or his writings, consider buying a book or two in memoriam or helping his family directly. A great deal of Kudos is due ConnectiCon for maintaining that Dealer’s Room table, upon which a couple sharpies were left for fans and friends to write their goodbyes and thanks.

Since the con must go on, and since we’re still in the Dealer’s room, let’s distract our emotions with shiny things and the booths that swaddled them. One large area hosted the Dealer’s Room, Artists’ Colony, and the various featured guests. Things seemed a bit more spread out this year, and maybe that’s why it felt so empty. Traffic was never an issue any of the few times I popped in to look around. While the floor felt relatively sparsely populated with vendors compared to last year, the booth quality seemed far superior. From the visually enthralling simplicity of the wood and cloth Tea & Absinthe storefront to the morbid fun of the gargoyle-guarded Haunted Graveyard to the colorful Jerry’s Artarama table with interactive scribbling pads, the Dealer’s Room was peppered with some pretty interesting booths.

Conversely, Artists’ Colony seemed unfortunately tame—pretty scant in regards to eye-catching appeal. There were, of course, a few exceptions to this, most notably the Full Coverage Writers. They had a typewriter on their table for visitors to contribute a word, a sentence, a paragraph to a collective story. The organization also made some kick-ass word nerd buttons. The alley where guests were hangin’ out and talking to fans evidently didn’t need any accoutrement; the stars themselves were brilliant enough to attract ever-lengthening lines of endeared fans.

The weather was gorgeous all weekend ‘round, which was ideal for cosplayers. They were out in droves representing every fandom imaginable via homespun improvisation, originative imagination, and nigh photographic duplication. I missed them myself, but there was a most excellent Inspector Gadget and a couple Cortanas amongst the pictures posted in the Full Coverage Writers’ photo gallery! (For Ink's ConnectiCon photoset, click here.)

Panels and workshops were on par with last year. My only real regret is not attending the calligraphy workshop due to the chance to record a silly ukulele song. The unexpected highlight was the FAKKU! panels (Visual Novels and Q&A), which explored the humorous and industrious nature behind the depths of depravity, but excellent panels abounded. (Read more about them in the forthcoming panels report.) Tabletop gaming, which is mostly what this con is known for, was in full stride with a packed hall roughly the same size as the Dealer’s/Artists’/Guest area. A few ConnectiCon exclusives, such as Cosplay Karaoke, the ConnectiCrawl, and the ConneciCon Death Match, made the con all the more enjoyable with their original twists on existing programming and attendee practices.

If not the same as last year, the layout was clear and efficient. ConnectiCon, along with the all of the Connecticut Convention Center, spreads throughout the nearby Hartford Marriott and Hartford Hilton. The arrangement allows for a lot of space and air, while little info desks throughout are provided to help people find their way. With regards to the panel floor, the only suggestion I’d have is a sign or two pointing to which side Panels 1-3 and 4-7 were for the idiots, like me, who forget every time they ride the up escalator.

Speaking of which, while I did not have moments available to visit the video gaming rooms (even though I was stoked that this event had a dedicated “Classic Console” room), there was a new addition this year that seemed a good use of space; the landing between the two sets of escalators between the main and panel floors was used for arcade rhythm games. Even though it caused some slight congestion, the entertainment of watching people enjoy themselves made each dual flight trip all the shorter while separating the noise from the rest of the con.

Bringing the noise out of the con and into Hartford proper, attendees filled such regular go-to spots as City Steam and Woody’s. I’d also be remiss not to mention the Saturday evening fireworks. It just so happened that ConnectiCon coincided with Riverfest. While awed by the booms, I was actually in a panel when the riotous explosions began and concluded. Musta been a helluva show, though. After the panel, I very slowly made my way, like a salmon against a current of evacuating Riverfest attendees, to my hotel room.

I may have left a tad early, but, in tuth, I was exhausted from what equated to a three-day party made possible by a con with a great breadth of content as well as a convenient locale and laid-back feel. With any luck, I’ll be paneling there next year—expanding the seemingly growing anime content. This is a con for the ages (literally, all ages) that lets attendees revel in nostalgia while witnessing the present state of fandom. I’d highly recommend picking up a weekend pass for 2015 to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Snapshot: Germany Annexes Japanese Lore (Folktales from Japan)

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Syncretism is a mainstay of Japanese culture. Movies, music, spirituality, and more from other countries are often adapted to complement modern life—the culmination of a long history rife with imagination and ingenuity. But Japan is certainly not alone in doing this. Folktales from cultures in every nook and cranny of the globe have been passed down for generations via oral tradition (and later in written collections). It's only natural that those same stories, upon spreading beyond their local and regional boarders via the likes of intrigued traders and passing travelers, change just as much due to the laws of a game of telephone as to adapt to slightly askew or dissimilar cultural value sets. Folktales from Japan (Furusato Saisei Nippon no Mukashi Banashi) is a series that focuses on folktales from Japan. While watching one such tale (“The Six Warriors”), my jaw dropped when I recognized parallels with a British movie about a certain German nobleman and infamous tall tale teller.

“The Six Warriors” (third tale, episode 114) involves a young warrior who wanders around inviting interesting people he meets en route to travel with him. He meets a man with superhuman strength, a man with superhuman speed, a man with superhuman eyesight, a man with a talent for blowing his nose, and a superb marksman. Separately, these types of characters are quite common in folktales. But the description of the young warrior as “a bit weird,” combined with the introduction of all of those types of characters, rang a bell.[1] Along their travels, this group comes upon a lord’s palace where a challenge is issued. Someone from the group must beat the lord’s daughter, the princess, in a race to a far-off spring, fetch some water, and bring it back. Again, whistles sounded in my head.[2] But when the man with superhuman speed fell asleep under a tree only to be espied by his travelling companion with superhuman sight and awoken by the effects of the superb marksman, I knew this was Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Münchausen.

Trouble is that I didn’t immediately have the historical background with which to discern which came first, “The Six Warriors” or an actual tale about the real-life baron that Gilliam wove in his movie. After all, Münchausen was a real man, a historical figure, who took part in the Russo-Turkish War. My head spun! The spread of his tales eastward or his absorption of tales heard from the west while fighting abroad were both plausible scenarios. A quick trip to Wikipedia town revealed that the first published stories collected about Münchausen (first by an anonymous third party and then translated into English and published by Rudolf Erich Raspe) “are based on folktales that had been in circulation for many centuries before Münchhausen's birth” (italics mine). So it looks like, in fact, one of the tales in Gilliam’s movie stems from a Japanese folktale! The differences[3] revealed by the East to West adaptation are pretty fun to examine; read on for the breakdown. Otherwise, marvel in the discovery of where one scene in a phenomenal British film indirectly gets its inspiration: a tale told to toddlers.


Although snapshots are generally brief affairs, and that "Ah-HA!" moment has already been described, I'd feel remiss if I didn't fully explain why my jaw dropped by examining all the differences between the tales. So please forgive the unusual length of this particular snapshot or just consider it a stitched-together, panoramic one.


[1] Characters

Baron Münchausen (Hieronymus Karl Friedrich Baron von Münchhausen) is ascribed to the role of the unnamed young warrior in the Japanese folktale. Both wield a sword as their primary weapon but seldom do any fighting themselves—commanding their companions’ talents instead.

Albrecht was the name given to the unnamed strong guy in the Japanese folktale. The only obvious change is cosmetic: Albrecht is played by Winston Dennis, a dark-skinned actor (African-English?), whereas the anime character is, most likely, Japanese.


Berthold was the equivalent of Idaten from the Japanese folktale. Both were super fast, but Berthold had the addition of self-applied ball chain shackles he wore when not running in order to slow himself down. (The implications on self restraint and lack thereof can be argued.)

 

 

 


Adolphus is an interesting amalgamation of the man with superhuman eyesight (Senrigan) and the rifleman ("straw hat") from the Japanese folktale.

 

 


Gustavus creates massive gusts of wind by blowing through his mouth, while Hanafuki (from the Japanese folktale) blew through his nose. Hey, ya gotta keep the children entertained. Also, Hanafuki gained two HUGE ears as Gustavus for feats of superhuman hearing in the Gilliam flick. I’m guessing this was done to compensate for the aforementioned amalgamation that subtracted an entire member with distinct capability from the cast.

Speaking of, that leaves five warriors on Gilliam’s Münchausen bill. Where’s the sixth? That’s the baron’s trusty steed, Bucephalus (not in the Japanese folktale), who comes at a whistle no matter what obstacles lie between him and Baron Münchausen.

[2] Plot

In The Adventures of Baron von Münchausen, the baron tells the tale of a wager he proposed while in the Sultan's palace. The wager was that the baron could procure, “within the hour,” a wine far superior to the sultan’s favorite directly from Vienna or else the Sultan could have the baron's head as a trophy.

In The Six Warriors, the young warrior and his group travel past a lord’s house. There is a mandatory challenge imposed upon all who pass: win a race or fork over all valuables. The race requires on challenger to beat the princess down to a spring three leagues away, fill a pitcher of water from that spring, and bring it back.

The baron sends for Berthold, who runs there, procures the bottle of wine, and sprints most of the way back but ends up falling asleep under a tree.

The young warrior sends Idaten, who runs there, fills the jug, and runs partly back but falls asleep under a tree after he sees what a huge lead he has on the princess.

Down to the last few minutes, the baron begins to worry and gets his team to use their distinct capabilities to find out what happened. Gustavus presses his large ears to the ground and hears Berthold’s snoring. Adolphus, boosted up on a rampart by Albrecht, espies the slumbering companion and shoots an apple off the branch under which he’s dosing. Awoken, Berthold makes it back in the nick of time.

Senrigan’s up in a tree or on a vine watching the race and alerts his friends to the fact that Idaten’s been overtaken by the princess, who also knocked over Idaten’s jug, while he was asleep. Straw Hat’s ordered to show his stuff. He shoots off the branch of the tree Idaten’s sleeping under and wakes him. Idaten goes back to the spring, refills the jug, and beats out the princess in a photo finish.

The sultan indeed finds the wine superior, and being a man of his word, lets the baron take “all the treasure the strongest man can carry.” Upon hearing that Albrecht hoisted the entire contents of the sultan’s treasury upon his massive back, however, the sultan sends forth an army to deal with the baron’s eclectic group. The troups are quickly defeated due to a few mighty blows by Gustavus and some minor contributions by the rest of the group.

Despite cheating, the lord concedes that Idaten won and allows the young warrior’s group to take all the treasure the strongest man can carry. Upon noticing the strong man in the group had lifted the all of the treasury, the lord orders his troops to attack the group of eclectics. The army, the sultan, and the princess are quickly defeated by a couple hefty blows from Hanafuki.

Later in the movie, upon catching up with Albrecht, it’s revealed that he alone kept the treasure and ended up giving it all away to charity.

After bankrupting the court, the young warrior’s team hands over the riches to the village that had suffered under the greedy lord.

[3] Themes

The challenge highlighted in The Adventures of Baron von Münchausen is one of man vs. time, which is a prevailing theme of the movie. (The baron’s constantly facing his own death.) When invigorated by such adventure, the baron takes on a visibly youthful appearance, and the tone of the action as well as the baron’s actions are those rooted in arrogance and selfishness. Neither of these are ever painted in a bad light.

The mandated challenge in the folktale is man vs. man—a representation of a prevailing moral of most of the tales in Folktales from Japan: the oppressive nature of the greedy vs. the selflessness of the just. Not only is the lord a deceiver by having a hidden ace up his sleeve (the princess is, like Idaten, endowed with superhuman speed), but his child also cheats during the contest. Deplorable actions meet a compounded just end: the rich lord loses all his wealth and is then for all intents and purposes banished from his land.

Whereas the Japanese folktale is about using everyone's special ability as a team to overcome the oppressive greed of the local lord in order to help his poor villagers, the movie is about the baron using the skills of each of his “servants” to acquire bragging rights and just for the general thrill of popping an inflated ego (be it general disbelief or classic narcissism). It should be noted that the sultan is portrayed as casually enjoying the suffering of his people, while the folktale casually implies the young warrior can’t resist besting someone at a challenge.

Both of the main protagonists are depicted as wandering adventurers. While the Japanese folk tale defines its protagonist, politely and reverently, not by name but as a ronin on "a journey to win fame and glory," Münchausen is depicted more or less as a fool—a child, a leaf amidst the winds of fantastic circumstances—whose fame is not so much sought but stumbled upon. This is a contrast of sense of duty towards self and others and the selfishness of Romanticism. Echoes of this contrast can be seen in all the above mentioned instances and descriptions.

The beauty of this bit of syncretism is that the not so opposite sides of the same coin (tale) complement each other so perfectly it's almost a divine balance.


Snapshots is a monthly column in which one of our writers reflects upon a particular moment from an anime, manga, or video game. New entries are posted on or around the 15th of each month. To read previous entries, click here.